Beating Slovenia, or Why England-U.S. Doesn’t Matter
The World Cup match between the United States Men’s National Team and England is arguably the most anticipated game in the history of American soccer. Britain will stop. Europe will watch. Even the U.S. will slow down (no doubt encouraged by ESPN’s massive marketing push). Circle your calendars for June 12.
Here’s the catch: The result doesn’t matter.
Of course, Bob Bradley’s troops would like to emerge from Rustenberg’s Royal Bafokeng Stadium with a victory or, my prediction, a draw, but a loss doesn’t significantly impact their chances to advance. Win against Slovenia and Algeria, and the Stars and Stripes are through to the knockout phase. Isn’t that the goal?
The coach and the players will tell anyone who will listen that playing well in the first match is important, and that’s true of course, but they’ll have five days to regroup no matter the result. A beatable Slovenia squad awaits in a match that is truly the American’s most important game of the tournament. Even a tie with the Eastern Europeans leaves the U.S. with a chance at four points, and Slovenia with a tough game against England.
U.S. v England makes for great theater (those boys at Waiting for Gaetjens couldn’t have picked a better name) and an excellent lead-in for ESPN. But is the match do or die for the Red, White, and Blue? Not even close.